Telling children 'hard work gets you to the top' is simply a lie

Discussion in 'Career, Work, Finances and Education' started by mojoreece, Nov 4, 2017.

  1. mojoreece

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    What do yall think about this article. Note that the author is from the UK. He grew up in inner-city London but worked to become a barrister (type of UK Lawyer?). What do yall think?

    Telling children 'hard work gets you to the top' is simply a lie

    "I know about social mobility: I went to underperforming state schools, and am now a barrister. Could somebody take the same route today? It’s highly unlikely"
    [​IMG]

    By Hashi Mohamed is a barrister for No5 Chambers and a broadcaster for BBC Radio 4


    It is a common promise made to the next generation. “If you work hard, and do the right thing, you will be able to get on in life.” I believe that it is a promise that we have no capacity to fulfil. And that’s because its underlying assumptions must be revisited.

    Imagine a life living in quads. You attend a highly prestigious school in which you dash from one quad to the next for your classes. You then continue on to yet another prestigious institution for your tertiary education, say Oxford or Cambridge University, and yet more quads with manicured lawns. Then you end up in the oasis of Middle Temple working as a barrister: more manicured lawns and, yes, you guessed it, more quads. You have clearly led a very square and straight life. Effortlessly gliding from one world to the next with clear continuity, familiarity and ease.

    Now contrast the above oasis with the overcrowded and under-performing schools of inner cities, going home to a bedroom which you share with many other siblings. A home you are likely to vacate when the council can’t house you there anymore. Perhaps a single-parent household where you have caring duties at a young age, or a household where no one works. A difficult neighbourhood where the poverty of ambition is palpable, stable families a rarity, and role models very scarce.

    The former trajectory, in some or all its forms, is much more likely to lend itself to a more successful life in Britain. The latter means you may have the grades and talent, despite the odds, but you’re still lacking the crucial ingredients essential to succeeding. I don’t have to imagine much of this. I have experienced both of these extremes in my short lifetime.

    My mother gave birth to 12 children. I arrived in London at the age of nine, speaking practically no English. I attended some of the worst performing schools in inner-city London and was raised exclusively on state benefits. Many years later I was lucky enough to attend Oxford on a full scholarship for my postgraduate degree. Now as a barrister I am a lifetime member of The Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn.

    Is my route possible for anyone in the next generation with whom I share a similar background? I believe not. And this is not because they are any less able or less dedicated to succeed.

    What I have learned in this short period of time is that the pervasive narrative of “if you work hard you will get on” is a complete myth. It’s not true and we need stop saying it. This is because “working hard, and doing the right thing” barely gets you to the starting line. Furthermore, it means something completely different depending on to which context you’re applying this particular notion. So much more is required.

    I have come to understand that the systems that underpin the top professions in Britain are set up to serve only a certain section of society: they’re readily identifiable by privileged backgrounds, particular schools and accents. To some this may seem obvious, so writing it may be superfluous. But it wasn’t obvious to me growing up, and it isn’t obvious to many others. The unwritten rules are rarely shared and “diversity” and “open recruitment” have tried but made little if any difference

    Those inside the system then naturally recruit in their own image. This then entrenches the lack of any potential for upward mobility and means that the vast majority are excluded.

    As a form of short-term distraction, we are obsessed with elevating token success stories which distort the overall picture. The story of the Somali boy who got a place at Eton, or the girl from the East End who is now going to MIT. These stories may seem inspiring at first blush, but they skew the complex picture that exists in deprived communities. It perpetuates the simple notion that what’s required is working hard, and that all else afterwards falls neatly into place. This simple ritual we seem to constantly engage in is therefore as much about setting up false hopes for other children, as it is about privileged, middle-class-led institutions making themselves feel good.

    The reality is that there are many like them trying hard to do better, but may be lacking the environment to fully realise their potential. Are they worth less? When told to “dream big” and it will happen, who will tell them that failure had nothing to do with their lack of vision? But that real success, especially from their starting point, often boils down to a complex combination of circumstances: luck, sustained stability, the right teachers at the right time, and even not experiencing moments of grief at crucial, destabilising junctures.

    Improving educational attainment is critical, and so much progress has been made over the years to improve this. But this is not enough. Employers must see hiring youngsters from poorer backgrounds as good for business as well as for a fairer society. They must be assisted with a real chance to succeed, in a non-judgmental context and inclusive environment. They must do more to focus on potential rather than polish. More leadership and more risk-taking are required on this front.

    Perversely, class and accents remain an overwhelmingly important way of judging intelligence. In France or Germany, for example, your accent rarely matters. Your vocabulary and conjugation will give much more away, but never your accent, apart from regional perhaps. I don’t see this mindset shifting, so my advice to youngsters has remained: you need to adapt yourself. You need to find the right way to speak to different people, at different times in different contexts. This is not compromising who you are, but rather adapting to the relevant surroundings.

    We need to do more to double down on improving environments both at home and at school which continuously constrain potential. If the adage that hard work truly matters rings true, then we must do more – at all levels of society – to make it a reality.
     
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  2. DreG

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    Everyone doesn't have access to the tools needed to get ahead,as addressed above.Some people won't get too far because they won't qualify.if your high school is a level 2,you most likely aren't even aware of how unprepared you are for college.

    And really any job is based on an employer's sense of you.They have the discretion to choose or pass over you with no explanation.Any success anyone has ever had is owed,on some level,to someone giving them a break.Hard Work will (hopefully) get you in the position to be noticed by anyone who can open doors for the next level.
     
  3. mojoreece

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    This is what i've come to learn. PPl love to hear them and make them feel good. Sometimes I even get happy when I hear how a black person beat the odds and got out to get into the ives.

    :patrice:But then I think what about the ones who did not get out. Where did they go. If not Harvard did they get into Morehouse or Hampton? Or what about their own parents they also worked hard why were they not able to get out before they had kids? Then I think about our ancestors. What about them? I know damn well they work really hard. Why did they not get to see the fruit of their hard work--SLAVERY.

    Theses stories sometime ignore the institutional hurdles we face trying to make it. I have a problem w/ this because this should be the norm not the exception. It also feeds into the mentality that poor people are poor because their lazy don't want to work. "If they only would work hard they could be rich". All the poor ppl I know have at least 2 jobs with a college degree.:ufdup:
     
    #3 mojoreece, Nov 5, 2017
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2017
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  4. ColumbusGuy

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    Yes increasingly for any group(unless you are born with a silver spoon in your mouth) you have to word hard as well as have some lucky breaks, or even better, the ability to see and take advantage of opportunities when they arise. It is not just opportunity-it is the ability to see and realize an opportunity is there, and then to seize it and act upon it. It is easier for whites of course, but not as easy as it was and it is getting worse for everyone as society loses the middle class and increasingly becomes a bifurcated society with fewer 'haves', and many many more 'have nots'.
     
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  5. Dreamwalker

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    But you know us black people have known since forever that this is a lie too.
     
  7. Cyrus-Brooks

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    "Hard work will get you ahead" is popular lie people like to tell kids just like "everybody is equal." Lots of people at the bottom of the wage scale around the world work very hard and only earn enough eek out an squalid existence. Non-blacks especially like to bludgeon black Americans with this lie as an explanation for the poverty and deprivation most of us face is due to a lack of hard work. It's easier to ignore the structural disadvantages and economic exploitation American society is built on. There are plenty of studies now that show that if you're born poor your chances of escaping poverty and moving up the income scale are not good and getting worse. Many downwardly mobile whites helped put Trump in office. They're finally getting a taste of what black Americans have had for centuries and they don't like it.
     
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  8. mojoreece

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    Doctors of cypher ave what do yall think about this? I know yall worked really hard but do you think "hard work gets you to the top" is simply a lie?
    :lupe1:

    @takeyourmeds91 @African King @NikR
     
  9. Lean Lantern

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    ...I wonder what he’ll do for his Somali Londoners, or his PoC Londoners for that matter, to help alleviate some of these institutional barriers.
     
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  10. mojoreece

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    I agree. He really didn't offer solutions. Or what should children learn to reach success.
     
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  11. African King

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    LOL I am not studying medicine but I am in the medical field. @NikR and @questforknowledge are though. I did not know that @takeyourmeds91 was studying medicine!
     
  12. takeyourmeds91

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    @mojoreece Disclaimer – I took a cursory look at the article so correct me if I misinterpret the writer. It’s been a long day.

    So he started out making me nervous but then his finishing points are very much so what I agree with. You need to have a very large tool box to succeed. It’s vital that we learn how to walk the walk and talk the talk. His overarching point of adaptability is valid. Unfortunately, it’s rarely enough to only be intelligent and have drive. It’s a fucked up system of nepotism and inequitable social capital that we need overcome until we get enough of us in there to change the infrastructure.

    Tangentially, I think this is where an HBCU can shine with the right leadership and faculty. It’s all a game at how well you can assimilate to white culture and beat them at their own game. HBCU’s have the unique position of understanding the circumstance of our people and intellectually nurturing its students while polishing in one fell swoop. I know this because I saw it in action and was even a product.

    But then you may counter, first we need to get these kids graduating high school and even applying to college. I agree. This is where mentorship and community engagement are exceedingly important. First off, many kids who grow up in disadvantaged situations are not told to work hard in the first place. If they are, many of them lack a stable environment in which those messages can be echoed and their potential nurtured.

    To “make it” often times, there has to be some level of insulation created by an authority figure to combat the constant messages of mediocrity and stagnation. If they have that in a parent, great, but the more the merrier. We need folks from similar backgrounds who have attained success to reach back and form longitudinal relationships with some of these kids who may lack a comparable figure in their lives.

    If you don’t want to do that, well damn it, find ways to focus your talents on changing the system in a way that’s advantageous for those who need it.

    And if you don’t want to do that, then you ain’t shit. Fight me.
     
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  13. Dante

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    "We need to do more to double down on improving environments both at home and at school which continuously constrain potential. If the adage that hard work truly matters rings true, then we must do more – at all levels of society – to make it a reality.

    VERY true!
     
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  14. BlackguyExecutive

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    We have to face it, most successful people had to work hard, although some worked harder than others. I would never discourage kids from working hard but in life, nothing is simply given. With that being said, access to opportunity varies across racial and socio-economic lines. People with more access obviously have more opportunity.

    For many black people, we have to work twice as hard and be twice as good and that still may not be enough to jump over barriers of entry but it can be done. It is done every day. It is not done because we settle into hopelessness and lack of effort. It's hard work.

    I think everyone should be forced to read Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers:

    [​IMG]

     
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  15. NikR

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    Per usual, I'm late AF.

    It's not that "hard work gets you to the top" is a lie, it's that this statement needs about a million qualifying asterisks.

    It's true that I worked frigging hard and was both persistent and resourceful growing up. But if I didn't have a supportive, nurturing family or the ability to get a big-ass loan for med school, I wouldn't have made it to where I am.

    Meritocracy doesn't actually exist. But here's how we can make the world better--pay it forward and nurture your peer networks. That's the only reason why I haven't put more time into seducing @questforknowledge 's hella sexy ass; dude might be my boss one day.
     
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  16. Boaxy

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    It depends on what you mean by "hard work"

    Hard academic work?

    Hard charismatic work?

    Hard networking work?

    Hard good and bad luck work?

    All of those things play a factor in "getting to the top."

    So in come cases, hard work will not get you to the top. In other cases it will.

    It just depends on the type of hard work.
     
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